July 31 RSU 2 Update on Return to Learning
Dear RSU 2 Parents and Guardians,
I’m sure you are all awaiting news from us regarding the return to school. As explained last week, the COVID Response Team, which includes building-level teams, has been at work determining what model will allow us to meet and enforce the Six Requirements for Safely Reopening Schools in the Fall. The Maine DOE states that meeting these criteria is “is required by all schools regardless of their county's red, yellow, or green designation.” Though we are still working out details, I want to tell you what we do know at this time.
Based on our current capacity to meet the Six Requirements, the RSU 2 COVID Response Team will recommend to the Board of Directors in August that we begin the school year with a hybrid model in all schools and offer an all-distance learning option for those students whose parents will not be sending them to school for any in-person instruction. We will constantly monitor implementation, complete a full assessment at the end of the first quarter, and make adjustments as necessary for the safety and well-being of our students.
The Hybrid Model: The hybrid model will ensure that we can implement the Six Requirements by having fewer students in our schools at one time and provide us with the time and space to figure out how to maximize our resources and capacity. It will also allow us to provide students with a less stressful environment as they return to school after a prolonged period away and become accustomed to the safety and academic protocols.
Generally speaking, we are recommending a hybrid model that places most children in one of two cohorts that will have in-person instruction for two days each week, have remote access to their teachers for part of a third day, and continue their learning independently on the other two days. We are still weighing the options for the weekly structure based on multiple factors, such safety, meal service, transportation, neighboring district schedules and quality of learning. With these and other factors in mind, we are considering one of two possibilities:
Monday and Tuesday—Cohort A; Thursday and Friday—Cohort B (AA/BB)
Monday—Cohort A/Tuesday—Cohort B; Thursday—Cohort A/ Friday-Cohort B (AB/AB)
Within the hybrid model will be some variation as we strive to provide safe, high quality educational experiences for all students. In placing students in cohorts, we will need to consider and balance individual needs, family circumstances, transportation logistics, and school capacity.
All-Distance Learning Option: RSU 2 believes that, generally speaking, in-person learning, even part of the time, is better overall for most school-aged children than all distance learning, and that both approaches have disadvantages and advantages. We understand that under the circumstances, some parents may have legitimate concerns about the safety of their children and families, and we do not want to see any of our students disconnected from the resources and support, such as meals, that come with enrollment in our school system. Therefore, the RSU is working on a plan specifically for students whose parents are choosing ALL distance learning for the beginning of the 20-21 school year. This program may be integrated with the hybrid model or it may be a stand-alone model.
Other Aspects of Planning
Calendar—In addition to recommending to the School Board the plans outlined above, we are considering recommending a start date of September 8. At this time, we believe the extra time may be needed, once all staff are back at work, to prepare for a very different kind of return to school and to make sure that the delivery of remote instruction is high quality. Discussions about this recommendation are still ongoing, but we wanted to let you know it’s a possibility.
Meal Service—Thanks to a recent federal waiver, we will be able to offer breakfast and lunch meals for each day of the week to all students who are enrolled in our district. Unlike the meals that were free to all children during the emergency spring closure, the cost to families for meals offered during the 20-21 school year, as in any other school year, will be based on eligibility for free and reduced-priced meals. Prices for meals will range from full-price to free. For the easiest, most secure Free and Reduced Meal Benefits Application click here or you may contact Food Service Director Chrissy Michaud at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now we need your help: We are at a point where we cannot be much more specific or form hybrid cohorts until we gather details from families about each and every student. Please take a few moments to complete the Individualized Return To School Parent Survey by August 7. We had about an 80% return rate on the anonymous parent survey. We need a 100% return on this non-anonymous survey. Thank you for your attention to this survey.
Finally, I would like to say that planning for a school experience that features masks, distancing, cohorts, complex scheduling, safety protocol education, movement arrows, and so forth has not always been the positive experience educators typically have when planning for a new year; yet, the closer we get to opening, the more excited we are to welcome your children back.
We miss them.
Acting Superintendent KIDS RSU 2
7 Reed St. Hallowell, ME 04347